With Great Boldness
This was my third Assembly, and it was far and away the most hopeful, engaging and inspiring I have attended, and I’ve heard the same from folks who have attended many more than me. First of all, it was one of the most highly attended gatherings in years, with attendance estimated around 3,000. (For some perspective, last year’s meeting in Fort Worth drew around 1,500.) On top of there being more people than in years past, I can also tell you anecdotally that this was a much younger crowd, which is especially encouraging.
It’s no secret that denominations in America are struggling to engage younger generations. CBF has not been immune to this trend and it has been reflected in the denominational gatherings. Not so with this year’s Assembly, at least not as much as years past. I heard several attendees in Greensboro from a variety of generations note with enthusiasm the prevalence of younger faces.
Which raises the question: Why?
In my estimation there’s probably not any one reason behind this positive upswing, but rather something that feels like a turning tide. First of all, there is a new class of leadership emerging in the CBF, starting at the top. As many of you have heard, Suzii Paynter became the CBF’s new executive coordinator earlier this year, the first change in the position in nearly 17 years. This was Suzii’s first General Assembly as coordinator and she did not disappoint. “My vision for CBF is to become the most vital, vibrant religious community in the United States,” she said in her report on the final day of the assembly. “Our country and our world need this voice…CBF, the way we have become church, is a needed vision, a vision of compassionate, enlightened, joyful, Christ-like community.” Along with this change at the top, an entirely new organizational structure was approved at last year’s gathering and put into place over this past year.
As this church well knows, the CBF has also seen an emergence of young leaders on the local church level as well. All three of our full-time ministers are in their 30s (and Stanley is a kid at heart), and many other churches across the CBF landscape have made similar efforts to elevate young leaders.
Exciting things are happening in the CBF world and I’m both proud of our church’s history of leadership in it and eager to see how we will lead in the future.